November 1, 2016 will be the first day of the third national PPACA (Obamacare) open enrollment period. This will be the most challenging open enrollment period yet. Not only because we now have so few health insurers to choose from but also because residents in states like Illinois, Minnesota, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and new Mexico are now facing annual premium increases of 50% to 93%! The state hit hardest is Arizona with a historic 145% increase. These are the highest annual renewal increases in recorded history. I guess we’ll now have to wait until 2018 to enjoy that “$2,500 premium reduction for a family of four” that our dear leader promised us way back in 2009.

In my home state of Illinois a.k.a. “The People’s Republik of Madiganistan” we now have 17 LESS health insurance carriers to choose from than we did before the wonders of Obamacare were implemented. In fact, this year we’re now down to 3 major carriers. Namely, Aetna (and their company Coventry) United Healthcare (and their company Harken Health) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. Of those three major carriers only one is offering ‘subsidized’ plans ‘on the exchange’. United Healthcare/Harken Health has pulled out of nearly every state exchange in the country and Aetna/Coventy has pulled out of 11 state exchanges, including ours. So, you can still buy Aetna, Coventry, United Healthcare and Harken Health plans but you cannot get a subsidy to lower the premiums even if you qualify. This should work out famously! Forward!

Why pay an agent or broker when you can have an unlicensed “Navigator” for free?

Oh, I almost forgot to mention! Commissions. Since the implementation of Obamacare thousands of licensed, experienced health insurance broker agents have left the industry entirely since our commissions were cut from an average of 20% of first year annualized premium to 6% but “hey, you’ll make it up in volume” the masterminds said. Tell me masterminds, how exactly are the few remaining licensed health insurance brokers like myself supposed to “make it up in volume” when Aetna, Coventry, United Healthcare and Harken Health have all made the decision to no longer pay ANY commissions? That’s right, all of these carriers have decided that they will no longer pay ANYTHING to agents and brokers. But never fear! You can always call your friendly unlicensed and inexperienced “Navigator” over at Healthcare gov to help you navigate the system. To all of my clients, don’t worry, you can still call me. I’ll figure out another way to eat.

Narrow PPO & HMO networks provide NO ACCESS to the best hospitals and specialists.

In the fall of 2015 our premier carrier, BCBSIL – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois – made the decision to remove access to their “Broad PPO” for all policy holders who purchase their own individual and family policies (non-group plans). The “Broad PPO” includes access to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Rush University Medical Center and the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s hospital (among others). That decision drove tens of thousands of unwitting Illinois consumers into the arms of “LOL Health” a.k.a. “Land of Lincoln Health” our state’s only Obamacare ‘co-op’. Last year, I warned every consumer I could via article, radio and in person that “LOL Health” had, at that time already suffered more than $90 million in net underwriting losses. They SHOULD have been placed into receivership BEFORE innocent Illinois consumers ended up without insurance. Sadly, it took our department of insurance an entire year to place “LOL Health” into liquidation. This action left many thousands of Illinois consumers without coverage and scrambling for alternatives one month BEFORE the next annual open enrollment period begins on November 1st. This, my friends is central planning at it’s absolute finest.

Great! What now? What am I supposed to do? My doctors are all at Northwestern?

Good question! There is still a way for individuals to buy a plan that includes a “Broad PPO” with access to Northwestern Memorial, University of Chicago Hospital and Rush University Medical Center and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s hospital BUT their is ONLY a 45 day window to do so. From November 1st to December 15th of 2016. To find out how, contact me after November 1st. Or, you can call those helpful “Navigators” over at Healthcare gov. I’m sure they have all the answers you need. Good luck with that.

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